Retrocession Bonanza Issue
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Here you go, all the retrocession news that fits, we print.
Jeffrey Itell April 29, 1998
Shot Gun Wedding
David Sobelson and Larry Mirel (who I I both know and respect) are way off based on retrocession to MD to DC .First Larry states that it will take a while for a good political idea to take off. Tim Cooper pointed out that retro has been around since 1800. I think that almost 200 years should be enough time. Communism's rise and fall only took 130 years, from Karl Marx to the fall of the Soviet Union. If retrocession needs another 50-100 years to catch on then they should be recruiting my six month old daughter to build for the long term.
Also renaming retrocession, when MD does not want us and we don't want them, as "Reunion" is like calling "a shot gun wedding, a marriage made in heaven!" Lets stop being distracted by ideas whose time will never come.
Retrocession--Does Maryland Want It?
Barbara Mikulski, who sends me, a disenfranchised DC'er, appeals for donations regularly to support her re-election as a Maryland US Senator, has been getting little notes from me in return, asking her to please support us in getting voting representation in Congress. No response. Every Marylander I talk to, many of whom used to live in DC, don't want anything to do with us returning to Maryland. They left the District because they wanted to leave its problems behind.
I'm not sure we have a lot of sympathy from this entity we're saying we want to retrocede to. Has anyone else had a different response? Personally, I think it would work, and eventually Maryland would see the benefits in having the greatest city in the world as their own. But, it's a little like a prodigal son coming home--the people who were there all the time resent it and don't want to give up anything, let alone give the guy some say in what goes on.
Statehood for the Federal District
All of this discussion about statehood for the District is interesting, but, falls somewhat short of the mark! How about statehood for the entire FEDERAL DISTRICT? Most civilized countries (and even some not so civilized) have a Federal, or Capital District. I would define the Federal District as PG, Montgomery, Arlington, Fairfax, etc., counties, and of course, DC itself. Less face it folks, within the Federal District none of us are receiving proper representation! The District's non-representational woes have been well-documented, and, unfortunately are all too true. But, for those in the 'burbs, it's almost as bad. Northern Virginia is used by a tax (cash) cow to fund downstate legislative boondoggles (excuse me-"projects"). Not to mention enduring the renaming of National Airport to RR "Gipper" Airport. Ditto for Maryland.
With a population base of well in excess of 3 million, certainly, we could bring some Federal largesse our way. Maybe another unneeded Freeway, an unnecessary Dam or at least a Federally-funded courthouse. At least, we would not continue to be ignored in Congress! Under my scheme, each country would remain a country, including the District, with its own local government and institutions. At least we'd have a unified voice to advocate for us, all of us in Congress. I realize that there are vast differences between the District and its various suburbs. But, we have many common interests and concerns that can more easily be addressed working together as members of one "State". And, no, don't ask me who the Governor should be.
Retrocession for DC
When Mr. Sobelsohn claims that retrocession is "the quickest and easiest path to home rule & equal representation," he fails to take into account Maryland Governor Parris N. Glendening's staunch opposition to it. In a letter sent to me by Mr. Glendening, he wrote: "I am adamantly opposition to retrocession... [u]nder the Maryland Constitution, the District of Columbia is too small to be a county, so in all probability it would be divided between Montgomery County and Prince George's County. That would further dilute the ability of the residents of the current District to achieve greater home rule. Those residents who live in the western part of the District would find themselves a minority in the expanded Montgomery County, and the rest would find themselves a minority in the expanded Prince George's County. The thousands of business and professional firms would discover that they would come under the regulation of different laws, be subject to different taxes, and generally be in an unfamiliar economic climate. It would be a difficult adjustment for many who have invested heavily to suddenly find all the rules changed.
"The impact on the residents of Maryland would also be very upsetting. For three hundred years, the economic and political power center of Maryland has been the greater Baltimore area. That has been slowly changing over the past half century, with the Washington suburbs growing in population and influence. To suddenly ass the District of Columbia to Montgomery and Prince George's counties would make them the new center of power in Maryland, without the opportunity for the rest of the State to adjust to this change. Ironically, the new power base in Maryland would be created by people who are not Maryland residents. One can only begin to imagine the economic, social and political chaos this would create. In time, undoubtedly, adjustments would be made, the new population would be assimilated, and the governance structure would find a way to meet the new challenges. But why put millions of citizens through all that trauma? No one will be better off as the result of retrocession, either in the short term or long term." Enough said.
Thoughts About a Merger into Maryland
I'm not as confident as Mr. Sobelsohn that District residents will support a merger into Maryland "when they realize that it's the quickest and easiest path to home rule & equal representation." The lack of enthusiasm for retrocession is probably related to District citizen's desire to keep their identity as a group made up of about 100 distinct communities. For 200 years, through numerous reorganizations and governments, District residents have worked to redefine their relationship with the federal authority and to clarify interests. The movement for more self-determination increased as the threat that the nation's capital would be moved diminished, as compensation for services provided to the federal government dropped, as discrimination was tolerated, and as a few members of Congress overrode the will of local people on issues involving local money and where there was not a federal interest. I speculate that, even with the advantage of instant voting rights, most District residents have about as much enthusiasm for merging back into Maryland as Marylanders have for merging back into Virginia. Of course, opinions can change.
The District has made progress in its quest for more self determination. 37 years ago, residents were granted the right to vote for President via Amendment, 29 years ago locals began to advocate statehood, 20 years ago Congress gave the District 7 years to get the Voting Rights Amendment ratified (just as President Reagan was elected), and 16 years ago the District convened its Constitutional Convention, as time on the Amendment expired. The personal benefits will have to be really huge if locals are to change course and support a merger into Maryland. And I'm not sure what incentive Maryland has to take the District's 44% share of the metropolitan region's poor, when it now gets $600 million annually from District employees living in Maryland with no obligation to the District. All the options are legitimate and none are easy. Personally, I like the idea of an Amendment even though it will be tough to achieve unless Congress is convinced of its need. Our priority for the next few years should be to rebuild our local government structure in a way that respects our many neighborhoods and interests, and is fiscally sustainable.
Who Supports Reunion?
Mr. Mirel writes that "a large and growing number of people do support reunion [of the District to the state of Maryland]. However, it is not quite clear who these people are and how many of them are there. Do they live in Ward 3, for instance? If so, how many are there? Do they live in Ward 8 as well? If so, how many are there? Do they live in Ward 1, also? If so, how many are there? And where do the rest of Washingtonians stand on this issue? Mr. Mirel can't possibly know the answers to any of these questions because he has not put the question of retrocession up for a city-wide vote. Seeking to ensure democratic rights for D.C. residents requires honoring the democratic process. Statehood advocates respected it, why shouldn't retrocessionists?
As to the merits of retrocession, I hold the opinion that D.C. residents should be entitled to enjoy equal constitutional guarantees without having to barter away their own historical, cultural, social, political, and ethnic identity. The remedy of D.C. Statehood or the Equal Rights Amendment for D.C. residents honors both the District's separate identity and the principle of self-determination; retrocession, alas, does not. ---- Retrocession Reprise
When Mr. Sobelsohn denigrates the draft language of the Equal Rights Amendment for D.C. Residents by labeling it "silly and poorly written", he also denigrates the professionalism of two outstanding constitutional scholars who helped write it: Professor Raven-Hansen of George Washington University and Professor Jamin Raskin of the American University. But be that as it may, the Equal Rights Amendment would represent a serene compromise between D.C. Statehood supporters and the Maryland retrocessionists. For statehood supporters, it does not eliminate the possibility of achieving statehood one day. For retrocessionists, it leaves the door open for a time when District residents might actually support retrocession.
Naturally, the passage of a constitutional amendment is no minor challenge. And while it is true that the D.C. Voting Rights Amendment was ratified by only 16 states (not 6 states as Mr. Sobelsohn claims), one must appreciate the convergence of circumstances that contributed to its inevitable downfall. 1) The short time limit allowed for passage; 2) the anemic national campaign; 3) a woefully inadequate educational program for state legislatures; 4) a grossly under funded campaign. But, of course, the history of the 23rd Amendment campaign was quite different. Its successful passage in 1961 served to win D.C. residents the right to vote in presidential elections. And it moved through Congress and the state legislatures with considerable dispatch. This was due, in part, to U.S. concern that the Soviets would use the District's lack of voting rights as a Cold War propaganda tool. Today's continuing human rights violations in the nation's capital represent political leverage of the same magnitude. Though there is no easy and majestic way to overturn a 200- year- old injustice, the Equal Rights Amendment represents a coherent strategy that serves to fill the void.
Equal Rights Amendment For DC and Other Ideas
It puzzles me that ideas offering possible solutions to the disenfranchisement of 500,000 United States citizens should be met with such animosity or prompt personal attacks on Tim Cooper. It also surprises me that concerned citizens who spend time and personal resources attempting to craft ways to resolve this affront to democratic rights should be dismissed as whining, sniveling and wasting time. This level of discourse implies that civil deliberation about the rights of District citizens is not possible.
And how is that a situation that protects all DC citizens' rights EXCEPT home rule and equal representation in Congress is acceptable? Perhaps lack of self-determinationa and exclusion from full participation in the federal representative government does not impress some people as fundamentally unjust and unacceptable but it strikes this District citizen as both.
Analysis on Urban Fiscal Problems
"Mayors and Money: Fiscal Policy in New York and Chicago," a book by Ester R. Fuchs, compares the impact of different political structures on fiscal outcome in New York and Chicago. Fuchs says the Depression put an end to economically self-sufficient cities, at which time the federal govt. stepped in with The New Deal; Reagan's New Federalism divested the federal govt. of responsibility for urban problems and shifted the debate to one of mismanagement. Because Chicago's mayor used the party machine to persuade county officials and state legislators to share regional costs and was able to control special interests, it avoided a fiscal free fall. New York, which relied more heavily on federal programs and tried to spend its way out of special interest disagreements ended up with a financial control board. Fuchs suggests several structural changes including: "[T]he tax base that pays for urban service delivery must be expanded. The cities that have generally managed best, such as Chicago, Minneapolis, San Antonio, Dallas, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles, have created some form of metro government or at the very least have relied on the tax base of county or state governments for the provision of expensive redistributive services and deficit-producing services like mass transit." Anybody know anything about this?
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